Committee on House Administration (CHA) Democrats were alarmed to learn that Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (OGR) Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) had disapproved travel for OGR Democratic staff to attend a forum related to the Committee's oversight of federal drug policy. CHA Democratic Members, Representatives Bob Brady (D-PA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Charles Gonzalez (D-TX), sent a letter to Chairman Issa, seeking further information on the review and approval process of Democratic expenses on the OGR Committee.
Last Friday Chairman Issa refused to authorize a routine request by OGR Subcommittee on Health Care, District of Columbia, Census and National Archives Ranking Member, Danny Davis (D-IL). Rep. Davis planned to host a subcommittee forum on Drug Policy in Chicago. Since June, Mr. Davis and his staff had been working in bipartisan fashion to organize and plan the event which occurred Monday and featured four panelists, including the Director of the National Drug Control Policy.
Democrats from the Committee on House Administration, which has oversight responsibilities for the use of House of Representatives Committee funds, questioned why Chairman Issa is not permitting OGR Democrats total control over their 1/3 of the OGR Committee budget as he promised in response to questions during the House of Representative's Committee funding process earlier this year.
"Majority rule with minority rights is a founding principle in our democracy," said Ranking Member, Bob Brady, "This Committee must serve the interests of the institution, and Committee funds are available for all Members to conduct official business. We cannot stand idly-by as a lone Chairman undermines the rights of his fellow Members."
According to Rep. Lofgren, "It's inexcusable that Chairman Issa is trying to restrict the minority's right to conduct committee business. The Chairman's disregard for the rules, traditions and precedents of the House is troubling, and raises serious questions about his leadership and motives."
"The House of Representatives works for all the American people," said Rep. Charles A. Gonzalez, "and we ensure that all voices are heard by allowing the minority party to be heard and meaningfully participate. Only by respecting this tradition can we ensure that Congress, Republican and Democratic Members alike, meets our Constitutional duty to oversee the Executive Branch."
CHA Democratic Members asked Chairman Issa to respond to the following letter by Tuesday, October 25:
October 19, 2011
The Honorable Darrell Issa
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
2157 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-6143
Dear Chairman Issa:
We are aware that you recently denied Ranking Member Danny Davis' request to be accompanied by two Minority Committee staff to attend a forum in Chicago on October 17, 2011. Your rejection of an entirely appropriate request directly contradicts your response to the questionnaire you furnished the Committee on House Administration in preparation for the 112th Committee Funding hearing. Your action could violate House Rule X, clause 9 (a)(2) which require, in part, "Each professional staff member appointed under this subparagraph shall be assigned to such committee business as the Minority party members of the committee consider advisable".
Your action regarding this forum continues a disturbing and troubling pattern of suppressing Minority views and participation during your stewardship of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. This behavior is particularly troubling since you failed to indicate any alteration in this policy in your response to the Committee funding questionnaire when you stated "The Minority received 1/3 of the committee budget for the 110th and 111th Congress. The same allocation will be maintained in the 112th Congress..."
Ranking Member Davis' request was clearly and obviously related to his duties as the Ranking Member of Subcommittee on Health Care, District of Columbia, Census and National Archives. According to Committee Rule 6, clause (a)(3), the subcommittee shall have "legislative jurisdiction over drug policy " Mr. Davis' forum included a presentation by R. Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
As part of our ongoing Committee on House Administration oversight of the official resources provided to House Committees to conduct business, please respond to these questions by Tuesday, October 25th:
Explain the process of planning travel by Majority staff and the amount of notice of events given to the Minority to plan its own participation.
Please provide information regarding the role and powers of the Chairman in setting a committee agenda and defining official business. In what ways can the Chairman direct the Minority?
During the 111th Congress, were you or your staff reimbursed for travel in which you were not accompanied by a Majority Member or majority staff of the Committee?
In your view, what constitutes "official business" of your committee?
Provide data, including costs, on all instances in the 112th Congress of official travel by Majority staff when unaccompanied by Minority staff.
Does legislation or oversight related to the Office of National Drug Policy fall within your Committee's jurisdiction?
For each instance of Majority staff travel in the 112th Congress, indicate the number of days you provided to the Minority staff to travel compared to the Majority staff.
List all travel requests by the Minority which you have approved/rejected.
How was your April 21, 2011 forum in San Diego on the bio-tech industry and the Food and Drug Administration different from the forum Ranking Member Davis proposed regarding Drug Policy?
Upon learning in June about the proposed forum, did the Majority staff offer to hold a hearing on Drug Policy at that time?
Explain the timeframe between receipt of Ranking Member Davis request in June and the rejection of it in October. What role did the Chairman of the subcommittee play in this process, if any?
Will you approve future requests for appropriate resources by Minority members and staff to assist them in conducting the official business of the Committee?
We look forward to reviewing your responses to these questions. The rights of the Minority members of the House should not be in question. We remain committed to ensuring that every Member has access to the appropriate tools and resources need to conduct their official and representational duties.
ROBERT A. BRADY ZOE LOFGREN CHARLES GONZALEZ